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Forbes awards LR hotel 4 stars

143-year-old Capital was recently refurbished over 2 years

By Jack Weatherly

This article was published February 27, 2013 at 12:04 a.m.

a-capital-hotel-employee-walks-through-the-ornate-lobby-area-of-the-downtown-little-rock-hotel-tuesday-afternoon-the-hotel-has-been-awarded-a-forbes-travel-guide-four-star-rating

A Capital Hotel employee walks through the ornate lobby area of the downtown Little Rock Hotel Tuesday afternoon. The hotel has been awarded a Forbes Travel Guide four-star rating.

— The Capital Hotel in downtown Little Rock has been awarded a Forbes Travel Guide four-star rating in its latest report.

In the past year, Forbes has hinted that the Capital Hotel - which was built in 1870 and underwent a major renovation by its current owner, Warren Stephens - would receive a rating, which Forbes made official on its website Tuesday.

Stephens has not publicly revealed the cost of the makeover, though at one point he said the price tag would beat least $24 million. That was before he knew the full scope of the project, which was carried out over two years and completed in late 2007.

Of the Forbes honor, Michael Chaffin, general manager of the 94-room hotel at 111 W. Markham St., said, “We appreciate it very much.

“We try to take care of our guests ... [as] we pursue an art of hospitality that is not common,” Chaffin said.

And, he added, “I think it’s great for Little Rock. It gets us more and more on the radar so that we’re not overlooked [but rather] we’re sought out instead of, yeah, we’ve got to stop over there.”

Gretchen Hall, chief executive of the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the rating “benefits the entire package of hotels in the city.”

“We’re looking forward to its neighbor across the way to get through that transition” from the Peabody Little Rock hotel to the Marriott.

The Peabody was given a four-star rating in 2011, the only such hotel in the state with the honor.

Forbes has said that it would re-evaluate the hotel after the deal is finalized. No Marriott hotel in the UnitedStates has a four- or five-star Forbes rating.

The city has approved the lease that transfers operation of the 400-plus room hotel from Memphis-based Peabody Hotel Group to Fairwood Capital, a private investment firm also based in Memphis, which has chosen the Marriott brand.

On Tuesday, the Peabody Little Rock was not listed among rated hotels on the Forbes website. Calls to Forbes were not returned.

Of the Capital, Sharon Priest, executive director of the Downtown Little RockPartnership, said “I’m very excited for them. Visitors can find sophistication here that they might not have thought existed.”

Shane O’Flaherty, thenpresident of global inspections and ratings for Forbes, said last year that the Capital is a “wonderful hotel.” It could rate four or even five stars, he said.

In an interview Tuesday, Stephens said that the hotel won’t strive for a five-star rating just as it did not consciously seek the four-star ranking.

“I am really, really proud of the hotel. I just think they do an outstanding job,” Stephens said.

“We’d certainly be honored to be a five-star, but I don’t think we’re going to change anything we do.”

Business, Pages 28 on 02/27/2013

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